Editor's comment

18th December 2009 at 00:00

This week is our last issue of 2009, a turbulent year educationally and financially. There are unprecedented cuts to council budgets and staff morale in education authorities is plunging - perchance they are related. In addition, probationers are finding it almost impossible to find a permanent job, teacher unemployment is fragile at best, teacher training is facing major pressures and "the biggest reform in a generation" is struggling to survive in the turmoil.

Into this cocktail steps Michael Russell as Education Secretary. He began promisingly, pledging a new relationship with the local authorities and Parliament. But if the bad-tempered exchanges among MSPs continue, as on Wednesday, when Mr Russell struggled to be heard above the din, and if they are replicated in the new deal with local authorities, then "we're all doomed".

Council leaders' reaction to Mr Russell's compromise on class sizes and free meals (p1) shows that even a concordat may not be enough to save the Government's bacon. The contradiction at the heart of that contract between central and local government will not go away: how can a government enforce policies which depend on the goodwill and agreement of the authorities to implement them? Mr Russell has made a brave bid to square the circle, but it may not be enough. His problems are twofold: there is a lack of belief in some of his key education policies and a lack of funding to back them up. Each on its own would be a sufficient challenge.

Perhaps the award for quote of the year should go to First Minister Alex Salmond who said in a BBC interview that the Government must "reorientate the progress we can make in some of our most cherished ambitions". With that, and echoing Mr Russell on Wednesday, we wish you all a good new year (perhaps of reorientation).

Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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